Vicki Sapp and Carlton Triolo-Sapp share more than a last name. The cousins also share life experience. The two grew up in the same building in the Mott Haven projects in the South Bronx. They both attended and graduated from Buffalo State and went on to earn doctoral degrees. And today, as both enjoy successful careers, they have combined their resources to fund the Sapp Family Scholarship, which supports students from the New York City area who participate in the college’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP).
“We want [scholarship recipients] to understand that Vicki and I aren’t special. We were just two typical kids from the South Bronx. We were just two kids who decided to work hard, stay out of trouble, and aim for success,” said Triolo-Sapp, who serves as senior manager of customer experience at Discover Financial Services in Chicago. “My hope is for them to see that if we can do it, they can, too. For me, this fund is my way of showing a student that I believe in them, that I value them and the contribution they can make, and that I’ve got their back.”
“We want to help students advance as far as they can go,” added Sapp, assistant director of housing services for Capstone On-Campus Management at the University of Maryland. “Carlton and I know from experience that traveling across the state as a first-generation college student can be daunting. Providing financial assistance and mentorship is our way of easing that transition process for today’s students.”
The Sapp Family Scholarship helps supplement other tuition-based scholarships by paying for personal care items and trips back home for the holidays—the sometimes-forgotten things that can make or break a student’s persistence in college.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in student personnel administration at Buffalo State, Sapp worked in student affairs at Fredonia, SUNY Cortland, and the University at Buffalo (UB). She was instrumental in creating the Intercultural and Diversity Center at UB. She completed her Ph.D. in higher education leadership from the University of Rochester this past June.
“I loved Buffalo State. I transferred in for my sophomore year to be with Carlton and his sister, Carla. We had the best time together on campus,” Sapp said. “I had some very influential professors and mentors—Dr. Anthony Neal, Dr. Monroe Fordham, Dr. Dolores Battle—who taught me that I could be what I wanted to be. I didn’t have to settle for anything. That was life-changing.”
Triolo-Sapp continued his education at Rutgers University, graduating with a master’s degree in social work in 1995; he completed his Ph.D. at the Ohio State University in 1999. He received the EOP Distinguished Alumnus Award at Buffalo State in 2015.
“What I’ve learned from selecting scholarship recipients is that the struggle hasn’t changed,” Triolo-Sapp said. “Students are faced with the very same things I was challenged with, but somehow it seems harder today. In a small way, I want to help. It doesn’t take a very wealthy person to help. It takes a caring person.”